Cariboo Regional District chair Al Richmond says the recent changes to the Agriculture Land Commission and dividing the province into rural and urban zones may be a good thing for the Cariboo.
On April 2, Richmond met with Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who is also the Minister Responsible for Core Review. Bennett performed the core review on the ALC that led to the changes.
“[Bennett] says they are trying to find abilities that keep the ranchers and grain farmers and people like that on their land by allowing some additional flexibility on what they can do.”
By broadening its criteria in legislation, the ALC can then allow for expanded and non-agricultural considerations for land in the new Zone 2, Richmond explains.
In the Cariboo has a lot Class 4 (limited crop range) farmland, he notes, but a lot less fertile (Zone 1) land than what is in Fraser Valley.
“So in the [new Zone 1] areas where they have the good agricultural land, they have kept the more stringent regulations.”
The initial advisory panel in the local region set up in 2003 to make recommendations to the ALC had representatives from the Thompson Nicola Regional District, Lillooet, Chilcotin, and a former CRD planning administrator, Richmond says.
“Now [having regional panels] is in the legislation, so that is good.”
The ALC has historically approved about 60 per cent of the CRD board’s recommendations – also upheld by community Advisory Planning Commissions – in its Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land decisions, he notes.
Richmond offers an example where a piece of property had all the development infrastructure required by the Official Community Plan, such as paved roads, power and telephone service, but was rejected twice in its applications to be let out of the ALR.
“We had a fellow who wasn’t from the area on the ALC opposed to it. So, it took three times for it to go through, until they finally realized it didn’t make a lot of sense – that it should be developed.”
There are conflicting opinions on what might be good agricultural land and what isn’t, he adds.
“The criteria they have right now is pretty stringent in some aspects when the land, in fact, might not be good agricultural land, and may not be good for grazing.
However, the changes could also potentially open up large agricultural properties to removal from the ALR and subdivision to increase their commercial values.
“I think that is always a concern. But people do have the right to take on new endeavours. I think that is partly what [Bennett] was saying – we have to make it attractive for families to stay on the land … to make it more viable to be there.
“You can’t just have vast tracts of land sitting there doing absolutely nothing … if you can’t make a go of it, it can’t sit there forever. There are taxes that have to be paid, and things that need to be done.”